Gecko Care Sheets
Leopard geckos are
ideal pets for both beginners and pro's alike as well as being relatively
hardy - providing
the care that leos require is given, unfortunately (and all too often)
many leo's are bought as pets without even the basics known or they are
kept in unsuitable conditions often to the detriment of the leo's health.
A good rule for anybody thinking of buying a leo is to think about the
1. Have you researched as much as you can from books and other resources?
2. Can you afford not only the needed set-up but also the vet fee's if something
does go wrong?
3. Can you give the leo the care and attention it needs?
Buying your first Leo
When buying a leo there's usually two
ways of doing so - either from a pet-shop or a private breeder - again
there are several things worth looking at and asking.....
• Are the leo's kept in crowded conditions?
• Do they look healthy and alert with fat tails, do any of them have discharges
from the nose or wounds etc and are the vivs/tanks clean?
• Are there signs of bad sheds with either accumilated dry skin on toes or
• Are young leo's or those under 6 inches in length being kept on sand or a
loose particle substrate?
Crowded conditions can lead to some being bullied by others and - especially
if the conditions are unclean - leo's can be stressed with an increased risk
of disease spreading and poor health. Young leo's being kept on sand are at
a greater risk of impaction. (more on this in the Health section)
• What sex are the leo's and how old?
Smaller, younger leo's have slightly different requirements and can require
greater care then older leo's. Female leo's can be kept together if the
tank/viv is large enough and a watch is kept on them for any bullying or fighting
as females do not always get on together ~ for this reason I always advise
having a spare set-up incase you have to seperate them. Males cannot
be kept together as they are territorial and will fight.
• What are the leo's being fed on?
Different shops/breeders all have their prefered diet for their leo's ~ some
feed a combination of livefood while others may stick to just one or two types
~ some leo's won't eat anything other then what they are used to so if change
is required it's best done gradually.
• Finally; if you are buying a second leo (or more) at a later stage
I always recommend quarentining them for a minimum of 3 months to ensure
they are healthy. Don't assume that all captive breed shop or breeder bought
leo's are parasite free so I always advise having feacal checks done not only
on new arrivals but on all geckos at regular intervals throughout the year.
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I would recommend that the tank/viv is
set-up several days before getting a new leo; this way you can have everything
ready and waiting but more importantly if there are any problems ie with
the UTH and/or Thermostat it can be rectified. New young leo's can on occasion
take a day or so too settle in to their new home whilst healthy adults
may on occasion take longer, sometimes upto a week..
Here's a guide list suitable for one
leopard gecko -
1 x vivarium or tank ~ 24L x 12w x 12h
1 x UTH (under tank heatmat)/Heatmat and thermostat
1 x digital thermometer (preferably one with a probe)
1 x water bowl
1 x humid hide
2 x hide
1 x calci-dish
Supplements ~ Calcium powder (ie: Calypso or similar), vitamin supplement (ie:
Nutrabol or similar)
Other decor as wanted.
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Set-up & Substrate
Substrate is a heated topic on many forums
and with many keepers, it is advisable to check the pro's and cons of each
type of substrate and not just rely on what a manufacturer states ~ there
have been numerous instances of leo's suffering (and dying) from impaction
due to some types of substrates either through directly eating the substrate
(which is more often due to lack of or incorrect supplementation especially
of calcium or bad husbandry) or by ingestion of the substrate when hunting.
Contrary to popular belief, their natural environment is NOT loose,
dune type sand.
When choosing a substrate it is worth remembering that most heatmat manufacturers
recommend a substrate depth of 1cm or less for efficient heating ~ using
a substrate deeper then 1cm could affect the temperature range of the heatmat
or even cause it to fail altogether.
Paper Towel (Kitchen
Roll) ~ cheap and easy
to replace when cleaning, low risk and the only substrate
really suitable for hatchlings and juveniles.
Tiles, Slate ~ these are again easy to clean
off with no risk of impaction but care is needed especially
with glass tanks due to the weight. A thin layer of sand can
be used to fill in any gaps, in a wooden viv it can also be
used underneath the tiles/slate to provide an even base between
them and the UTH.
Lino/Vinyl flooring ~ again easy to clean,
would recommend not using highly polished effects as this
can make it hard for the leo to grip especially when running/hunting.
If used inside a wooden viv it may be worth checking if the
lino/vinyl is a make suitable for underfloor heating.
Reptile Carpet ~ mats can be changed and
washed but it is advisable to get those that do not have
'looped' fibres due to the risk of leo's catching their
claws in them.
Playsand ~ many keepers have used the very fine
sand successfully and with little or no problems but I would advise
only using it with adult leo's or those over 6
inches in length and keeping a watch for possible problems.
CalciSand ~ I would not recommend this at all.
Contrary to what it says on the bag it is not digestable
as stated by the manufacturers and leo's have been known to deliberately
eat this for the calcium resulting in impaction.
Bark Chips, Crushed Walnut, CornCob,
Gravel ~ not recommended. All
are totally indigestable with a high risk of possible impaction
Cat Litter, Sawdust, Woodflakes/Shavings ~ all
are unsuitable and not recommended for
use with leo's. Not withstanding the obvious problems of high
risk impaction due to being totally indigestable if eaten they
are primarily meant for other uses and animals.
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Heating & Lighting
undertank heater (UTH) is a necessity with leo's as they use the heat to
aid digestion and thermoregulate themselves, ideally the heat mat should
cover about one third of the tank floor so to allow for a hot end (approximately
88*F-92*F/ 31*C-33*C) grading down to a cool end (approximately 75*F ~
23*C ). A thermostat helps keep the UTH at a constant temperature and from
If using a wooden viv then the UTH needs to go inside underneath the substrate
with the probes from both the thermostat and the thermometer in or on the substrate
nearby; preferably ontop of the heatmat to measure the ground heat accurately,
then put the UTH under
of the tank/viv allowing for a small airspace between the UTH and glass ~ this
will help prevent the glass cracking from the heat; a sheet of polystyrene
(or similar) placed beneath the UTH will protect furnishings while also
reflecting heat back up towards the viv.
Heating cables are also sometimes used; they work similar to heat mats and
are available in a variety of lengths and wattages ~ again they should be used
with a thermostat.
When setting up the heatmat and stat first set it to the prefered temperature
then leave for two - three hours to warm up before checking again and re-adjusting
as necessary ~ repeat until the temperatures remain constant and stable at
the required temperatures.
I would not recommend heat rocks for use with leo's as they have been known
to cause thermal burns.
Lighting ~ Leopard geckos are nocturnal/crepuscular so lighting
is not really essential in a normal well-lit room where they have a sense
night hours, however in a darker room a lighting system kept on a timer with
regular settings can achieve this. If wanted small, low wattage lighting
in the blue and red spectrum can be used for night viewing. It is important
that any lighting used does not overheat the viv or tank.
UV lamps are not essential as leo's are nocturnal/crepuscular and appropriate
supplements ~ if given correctly ~ provide the necessary vitamins.
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Hides & Humid
Hides are essential for leopard geckos, they
provide somewhere for them to sleep during the day and give them a sense
of security. There are many varied types
on the market today ranging from caves to
hollow logs, from simple to more complex; the
best ones seeming to be those that are small
enough for the leo to curl in without to much excess room. Ideally there
should be a hide placed at both the 'hot' end and 'cool' end of the viv
Humid Hides ~ These
are needed to provide the moisture necessary for leo's when they shed.
They can be as simple as a lidded tupperware box (or similar) with a
hole cut carefully in the top or side large enough for the leo to enter
or 'Shedding Stumps'; both part filled with a damp medium such as moss,
eco-earth or vermiculite; this should be placed on the 'cool' end of
the viv or tank. Humid hides also serve as egg-laying boxes for gravid
Water Dishes ~ Although leo's come from dry arid places
fresh, clean water should be provided for them. A small, un-tippable
water dish should be placed in the cool side (to prevent excess humidity)
of the tank or viv.
Cleaning ~ leo's are on the whole quite clean
and will pick one area to defecate in; this allows for easier regular
cleaning ~ I put small squares of kitchen-paper in the toilet area which
I just remove and replace with clean daily along with removing any dead
crickets, debris etc. Water dishes should be cleaned often and regularly;
this prevents any build-up of algea and more importantly bacteria. I
would recommend cleaning the entire viv or tank along with all decor
at least every month or so ~ although leo's only defecate in one area
they will walk through it and assorted livefood doesn't care where it
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Livefood and Gut Loading
Approx. Nutritional Value
Ca:P Ratio %
1 : 2.35
nutritional values taken from Japanese koi breeder statistics
high in calcium have a high Calorie/fat total value so recommended
as treats only.
fatty so recommended as treats only if used at all
* Dubia nutritional values taken from
Leo's are insectivors
and live food is vital for them. There is a wide variety of livefood
now readily available ~ from crickets, to locusts (hoppers), roaches,
mealworms etc ~ from both local pet stores and online shops (the latter
good if buying in bulk). Other
livefoods include waxworms and pinkies ~ both of these should be fed
in moderation only if at all; waxworms are high in fat and leo's can
become addicted to them to the exclusion of other livefood which is not
leo; there have also been reports of pinkies causing gout in male leos
so if used are best only as occasional treats for gravid females. All
livefood should be well gutloaded for at least 24 hours before feeding
to the leo's.
Any uneaten food such as crickets ~ should ideally be removed to avoid it
stressing the leo or nibbling on the leo while it sleeps however if it's
not possible to get all the crickets out then one tip would be to place a
piece of apple or carrot in a shallow dish and put this in the viv .....
this way the crickets have something to nibble on and it brings them out
of hiding for your gecko to eat them.
Gutloading ~ All livefood needs to be gutloaded; this
can be done in a variety of ways ~ from using fresh fruit and vegetables
apples, pears, green veg, carrots etc) grated and put in a dish with
the livefood or buying a premade 'gutloader' product ~ I prefer to use
a mix of fresh vegetables, fruit and cereals; my view being the better
is fed the
better it is for my
geckos ~ either way it
is essential to make the livefood nutritious for your leo's to keep them
Another point worth making is keeping the livefood clean especially if
buying in bulk; remove stale food regularly, also remove any dead livefood
especially will cannibalise on other crickets ~ and clean out the livefood
box before adding more livefood to it.
are another essential for healthy leopard geckos; these consist of a vitamin
& D3 powder (Nutrabol or similar) and a calcium only powder ~ I use Calypso
Calcium powder. All livefood should be dusted with the vitamin & D3
powder once or twice a week before feeding with all other feeds dusted
the rest of the time. The best way of dusting livefood is the 'shake&bake'
method ~ the livefood is put into a plastic bag with a small amount of
powder and shaken to coat it.
There should also be a dish of pure calcium powder available at all times for
the leo's to help themselves from in the viv/tank.
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of my basic viv set-ups
Other decor while not necessary does
make a tank or viv look nicer ~ from weird shaped bogwood, gnarled roots
to plastic fake plants and corkbark, vivs can either be made to look 'naturalistic'
or 'out of this world'. One advantage to using even basic decor is that
it can provide different textures and levels for a leo to climb or hide
under. Plastic or stone/fake wood items should all be washed and dried
thoroughly before putting in a viv, if using dead wood found or bought
then it is advisable to gently rinse it off to remove dust before baking
in an oven at low temperature for an hour or so to kill any mites etc that
may be hidden in or on it.
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Vivarium and Tank Measurement
Thought these graphs would
be of help especially given the confusion that sometimes happens when
or viv measurements
are given in gallons or litres as opposed to inches or centimetres. For
instance leo homes need more floor space then height so a 21 gallon tank
measuring 48" L x 12"w x 12"h is far better then a 21 gallon
tank measuring 16"L x 18"w x 24"h.
Imperial to Gallon
Metric to Litre
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Celsius & Fahrenheit Convertor
Another handy convertor that I thought may be of help ~ just
type in the temperature then click either the celsius or fahrenheit buttons
depending on which conversion you require.
Fahrenheit to Celsius / Celsius to Fahrenheit Converter
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*The information written
on my website and in my various care sheets has been gathered
through my own personal experiance and research over the years ~
Please do not use or replicate any information or photographs without permission